Thursday, August 22, 2019

The parable of two kingdoms

Gospel reading for Holy Communion today: Matthew 22:1-14.

Jesus told a parable, saying, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.

Now, if you have grown up in church, you’ll know how to interpret the various characters in this play. The king is God. His son is Jesus. The wedding banquet, the heavenly feast. The servants, the prophets. The invited guests who refuse to come, and who the enraged king has destroyed, their city burned, are those who reject Jesus and so condemn themselves to the fires of hell. The guest who gets in, but is then thrown out, a final underlining comment that you can’t come to God on your own terms, only his.

But what if that isn’t the story Jesus was inviting us into at all?

What if the comparison being made was not ‘see how the kingdom of heaven is like this’ but ‘see how the kingdom of heaven offers a contrast to this’?

What if the king is an earthly king, such as Herod?

What if the purpose of the banquet was to secure the position of a chosen heir?

What if the servants were simply servants?

What if the refusal of the invited guests to come brought shame on the king, and, enraged, he has them eliminated?

What if the king seeks to restore honour by a pretence, a rent-a-crowd to show how very well-regarded he is?

What if one man is brought before the king, but refuses to play the game? What if this man is put in a royal robe that is not his own, and then has it taken off again? What if this man remains silent when questioned? What if this man is bound hand and foot and led outside the city to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth?

What if the man is hung up, naked, on an execution scaffold, while women stand at the foot of the cross weeping, and men stand at a distance mocking?

What if, in total contrast to the king bound by an honour-shame worldview, this man is the heavenly king—whose kingdom is not of this world—who scorns shame and is honoured by those who see a different world beginning at the margins?

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